What to Talk About in a Language Exchange

You are about to partake in a language exchange. You know you need to have some sort of structure, some sort of lesson plan, but you don’t know exactly how to go about creating one. The most important thing to keep in mind is that an unorganized language exchange is going to be unproductive. Regardless of how you choose to structure your language exchange, you should go into each language exchange with concrete idea of very specific topics and activities. Here are a few suggestions for what you can talk about during the actual language exchange.

  • Play games- This especially works well if you are in a language exchange group of more than two or three people. For example, playing a quick game of Spanish Scrabble is both a good teaching tool and a great time for bonding. Of course, you do not want to spend your entire time playing games, but it can be a great activity to mix things up.

  • Pick specific conversation topics- For example, if both you and your language exchange partner are passionate about movies, you can spend part of a session describing your favorite movies. After giving maybe a short three minute or so summary, you can answer questions about the movie that your language partner asks you, and so on and so forth.

  • Discuss what you have learned since the last session- Ideally you will have some sort of language practice besides the time you spend in your language exchange. For example, during the interim between your language exchange sessions, you could be reading up about new grammar and vocabulary topics. As part of your language exchange sessions you could then summarize to your partner what you have learned and start a conversation there. Your partner would then be in a position to help you review and recommend new topics you might be interested in.

  • Talk about events in your life- It might be a good idea to have a designated time period during your language exchange session where you and your partner are free to discuss anything you like. Was there someone’s birthday over the weekend? Talk about the preparations, the guests who attended, and how difficult it was to clean up. Is there a big holiday coming up? Talk about your plans to get together with family, your growing stress as you try to get the house ready, etc.

  • Use the “book club” approach- There are beginning books for readers of every language to practice with. Try having you and you reading partner read one of these practice books for each session. You could then each take turns summarizing what happened in the books, talking about whether you liked it or not, and responding to each other’s questions.

  • Use a pre-designed program- There are many language sites and books that have pre-made lesson plans designed for language exchange programs. Consider as many of these options as possible to find the one that will best suite you and your language partner.

  • Talk about bizarre topics- Stereotypical questions “How are you”, “how old are you”, and “How is your family today” simply will not help prepare you for more difficult topics of conversation. Consider having a “bizarre topic” to discuss during your language exchange time. For example, “In high school, where there any classes that you doodled in because you were bored?” or “What sport have you always wanted to play but never tried?”

Photo Credit: Simon Blackley

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